Dark comedy “Birdman” boosted its Oscars hopes Sunday after landing the top prize at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, a barometer of likely success at the all-important Academy Awards.
The film about a washed up superhero movie star attempting to revive his career on Broadway took the SAG equivalent of the Oscars best picture with victory in the outstanding performance by a cast category.
The comedy emerged victorious ahead of coming-of-age drama “Boyhood,” Wes Anderson’s screwball caper “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” World War II drama “The Imitation Game” and the Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything.”
The honor for “Birdman” came just 24 hours after Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film scooped the top prize at the Producers Guild of America awards, another significant Oscars bellwether.
The victory leaves the film on pole position heading into next month’s Academy Awards, which will be handed out in Hollywood on February 22.
In the acting honors, Britain’s Eddie Redmayne thrust himself into Oscars contention by winning the best actor award for his portrayal of stricken physicist Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”
Redmayne, 33, beat out competition from Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), seen by many as a favorite, Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”), Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”).
Perennial Hollywood favorite Julianne Moore, who has swept most of the awards season honors for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s in “Still Alice,” took the best actress prize.
A star-studded night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles largely went to form, with veterans J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette scoring the first major film awards of the evening with wins in the supporting categories.
Veteran Simmons cemented his status as the overwhelming Oscars supporting actor favorite by picking up the corresponding SAG award for his portrayal of a fearsome music teacher in the acclaimed indie drama “Whiplash.”
Others nominated in the category were Robert Duvall (“The Judge”), Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), Edward Norton (“Birdman”) and Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”).
Arquette scooped her award for her performance in “Boyhood,” director Richard Linklater’s 12-year labor of love.
The 46-year-old paid a moving tribute to her late mother Olivia — who died in 1997 from breast cancer — after collecting her award.
“You are my hummingbird, you are always with me,” she told the audience.